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ARC-PA Physician Assistant Programs: Online and Accredited

Senior adult Caucasian female doctor with gray hair, Young adult Asian male nurse, senior adult Caucasian male doctor, and mature adult Hispanic female doctor are sitting at board room table during meeting. Hospital staff is using laptop computer and digital tablet to look at patient charts and discussing policy changes.

If you want to help other people, work in the medical field alongside other trained medical professionals like doctors and surgeons, you might consider becoming a physician assistant. We’ll break down the 14 best ARC-PA accredited online physician assistant programs in detail. We’ll also go over everything you need to know about becoming a physician assistant, why you might want to join this valuable profession and more.

Luckily, there are plenty of excellent accredited and high-quality online physician assistant programs. Not sure where to start? Read on to learn more!

What Are Physician Assistants?

Physician assistants are trained medical professionals who perform various tasks, often in conjunction with other medical staff, including doctors, surgeons, and nurses. Among their many duties, physician assistants may:

  • Diagnose illnesses
  • Develop treatment plans for patients and manage those plans as they develop
  • Prescribe certain types of medications
  • Serve as principal healthcare providers for patients

The big difference between physician assistants and doctors is that the former works on teams and under the supervision of a doctor, surgeon, or more specialized/educated medical professional.

Because of their versatility, physician assistants are found in all 50 US states and form the backbone of many medical institutions like hospitals and clinics.

Why Become a Physician Assistant?

At their core, physician assistants help people in medical need. It takes less medical training or expertise to be a physician assistant than to become a specific type of doctor, a surgeon, or another medical professional.

Because of this, the path to becoming a physician assistant is much more accessible, especially for those who start college a little later than right after high school. Even with fewer educational requirements, physician assistants make a real impact in the medical world and help their communities by prescribing medication, assisting their patients, and much more.

On top of that, physician assistants are often used to provide chronic care management, especially for individuals requiring extensive care for severe injuries or older individuals experiencing the onset of age-related diseases.

How Much Do Physician Assistants Make?

Of course, the pay for physician assistants is excellent as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physician assistants make an average salary of $115,390 per year, with a high-end wage of $162,470 per year earned by the top 10% of physician assistants in the country.

While it usually takes a bachelor’s and a master’s degree to become a good physician assistant and fill a position at a big medical center or hospital, the pay is well worth it. Those who become physician assistants can provide themselves and their families with a comfortable life and pay off any student debt they may have incurred throughout their educational training.

Related Resource: Highest Paying Healthcare Careers by Degree Level

How to Become a Physician Assistant

Becoming a physician assistant is a relatively straightforward process.

Step 1: Acquire a Degree

First, to become this medical professional, you’ll need a degree in physician assistant studies or a similar focus. You will not be able to become a physician assistant (most of the time) if you have any other healthcare degree.

For example, you want to become a physician assistant and have a bachelor’s degree in health sciences. In that case, you’ll need to acquire a master’s degree in physician assistant studies before you are qualified for most positions.

Both bachelor’s and master’s degrees are suitable, though master’s degrees are more competitive.

Step 2: Get Experience

Next, you’ll need to acquire sufficient experience as a physician assistant. Most PA programs need two types of practical experience: healthcare experience or HCE and patient experience or PCE.

Get as much experience as possible (at least 1000 hours) to qualify for the PA program you wish to take.

Step 3: Apply for PA Positions

Once you have your degree and your healthcare experience, you can then apply for physician assistant positions. Be sure to bolster your application(s) with letters of recommendation, records of your school grades, a list of your experience, and a high-quality personal statement.

What Are ARC-PA Accredited Degrees?

The ARC-PA, Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, is an independent accrediting body legally authorized to accredit physician assistant programs. Programs that award ARC-PA accredited degrees meet the educational and rigorous standards as established by ARC-PA.

Therefore, the ARC-PA ensures that any given physician assistant program teaches the right stuff and has enough academic rigor to produce qualified candidates for physician assistant positions. This academic rigor is essential because medical care is a big responsibility. No one wants to be treated by a supposedly licensed PA who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

Are ARC-PA Accredited Degrees Necessary to Become a Physician Assistant?

Technically, no. But practically, yes.

Any worthwhile medical institution that wants the best talent staffing its positions will look for applicants that have ARC-PA accredited degrees. Therefore, applicants need an ARC-PA accredited degree to stand out from other job candidates.

Not to worry, any good physician assistant program worth your time and money will be ARC-PA accredited. Furthermore, ARC-PA accredited programs come in all types, including in-person, online, and hybrid varieties.

At the time of this writing, there are approximately 282 ARC-PA accredited physician assistant programs.

Hybrid vs. Online Programs

It is challenging for many working physician assistants or other healthcare professionals to complete a full-time, on-campus program, even if they want to progress their careers. That’s where hybrid and online programs come in.

Online programs are PA programs that are entirely online. However, these online programs always include a practicum or clinical component. You can complete the required clinical hours needed for your degree either at home or at the clinic or medical center where you are currently employed.

Hybrid programs are a combination of in-person classes at campus locations and online hours. For most hybrid programs, any educational or didactic hours are completed online, and any clinical hours are conducted on campus at the university’s home medical school.

Either way, hybrid and online programs allow working physician assistants to complete their education and progress their careers, even if they have to finish the program on a part-time cadence.

Bachelor vs. Master Programs

Most PA programs are master’s programs, though there are several bachelor’s programs available as well. Regardless, these physician assistant-specific programs usually include a concentration in Physician Assistant Studies or “PAS.”

In general, a bachelor’s degree in PAS allows you to acquire entry-level physician assistant positions. A master’s degree in the field will enable you to reach higher-paying, more advanced positions at more competitive medical institutions or hospitals.

Master’s degrees may also allow for the opportunity to develop a career concentration or specialization. Again, a master’s degree can make you a more competitive candidate when applying for positions.

Top 14 ARC-PA Accredited Online PA Programs

Are you looking to start your search for a top-tier ARC-PA accredited physician assistant program? The below 14 programs are excellent choices due to their class rigor, schedule flexibility, or other factors. Check out each of the below programs in detail.

Miami Dade College – Bachelor of Applied Science/Physician Assistant Studies

  • Online/Hybrid: Hybrid
  • Accreditations: ABA, ACEN, ARC-PA, CAAHEP, CAHIIM, CoARC, CODA, FAA, JRCERT, NAACLS, NAEYC, SACSCOC
  • Tuition: $118 to $536 per credit hour

This hybrid physician assistant program recently transitioned to take over the former Associate’s program for PAs. The AP in Health Sciences is now a prerequisite for this bachelor’s program.

However, the program is only available to students who already have an Associate of Science degree (preferably with a concentration in Physician Assistant Studies). The majority of courses are on the Miami Medical Campus, and the program in total requires 130 hours of coursework. It takes 4+ years to complete from start to finish.

View More about Miami Dade College

University of Washington – Extended Master of Clinical Health Services

  • Online/Hybrid: Hybrid
  • Accreditations: AACSB, ABA, ABET, ACCE, ACEJMC, ACEND, ACOTE, ADA, APA, ARC-PA, CAAHEP, CAHME, CCNE, CEPH, CSWE, LCME, NASM, NASPAA, NCATE, NWCCU
  • Tuition: $279 per credit hour

UW’s Extended Master of Clinical Health Services degree is an excellent choice for PAs who already have at least two years of experience. It requires a two-week on-campus residency when the program begins in June. And, it offers a healthy spread of concentrations, including health care for rural populations, preventative medicine, academic medicine, and more.

All applications for the program are due by March 15 of the current academic year. Applicants need a 3.0 GPA, a bachelor’s degree in a related subject (preferably AP), and relevant licensure and certification. If the applicant is currently employed, a recommendation letter from their employer can’t hurt. The program lasts for four quarters; therefore, it can take as little as one year to complete.

View More about University of Washington

University of North Dakota – Master of Physician Assistant Studies

  • Online/Hybrid: Hybrid
  • Accreditations: ABA, ABET, ACEND, ACOTE, APA, ARC-PA, ATMAE, CAAHEP, CAPTE, CCNE, CEPH, CSWE, HLC, LCME, NAACLS, NASAD, NASM, NASPAA, NAST, NCATE
  • Tuition: $423 per credit hour

The University of North Dakota offers an MPAS program specialized for working PAs or other students with educational backgrounds in healthcare and science. It’s a 24-month program from start to finish and includes both clinical and online portions.

Most importantly, you can finish the clinical portions inside your own home. There are five additional on-campus portions for 17 weeks of instruction in person. This program may be ideal if you want to focus on providing primary care in underserved rural areas, as it emphasizes improved health care access for individuals in need.

If you’re a physician assistant with at least three years of practice experience, you’ll have a higher chance of getting into the program. Residents of North Dakota and surrounding states and applicants from rural or underserved communities are always given preference when applying to the program.

If you don’t have any PA work experience quite yet, slots in the program are limited to residents from North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Minnesota. Class sizes are pretty reasonable (usually around 35 students), and the program is known for admitting around one-fourth of total applicants each year.

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University of Wisconsin – Madison – Master of Physician Assistant Studies

  • Online/Hybrid: Hybrid
  • Accreditations: AACSB, ABA, ABET, ACEND, ACOTE, APA, ARC-PA, CAPTE, CCNE, CEPH, CIDA, CSWE, HLC, JRCERT, LCME, NAACLS, NASAD, NASM, NAST
  • Tuition: $518 to $1056 per credit hour

The University of Wisconsin’s Madison campus offers a hybrid PA program that includes four traditional quarters and a summer semester on campus. There are two required 3-4 day campus visits throughout the program’s duration. The program consists of two years of didactic education and a third year of clinical rotations in local communities.

Though it only lasts for three years, it’s known for its challenge and rigor, and it allows students to earn an MPAS degree while simultaneously working as physician assistants. Wisconsin residents currently serving rural communities are given preference during the admission process. Keep in mind that tuition usually is double that for out-of-state students than it is for in-state students.

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Sacred Heart University – Master of Physician Assistant Studies

  • Online/Hybrid: Hybrid
  • Accreditations: AACSB, ACOTE, ARC-PA, CAATE, CAPTE, CCNE, CSWE, NEASC
  • Tuition: $801 per credit hour

Sacred Heart University offers a 27-month long hybrid MPAS for full-time students. The first 12 months are online and classroom didactic learning. After which, students gain clinical experience for 15 weeks. The clinical experience is divided into five-week rotations, each focusing on a different subject, including internal medicine, pediatrics, primary care, and more.

Most of the program’s classes are in Stamford, Connecticut (around 40 miles from New York City). However, some courses are offered online. Note that the application deadline is October 1 of the prior academic year. The application requires a minimum GPA of 3.0, plus another 1000 hours of verifiable and paid patient care experience in the healthcare system.

Fortunately, the experience doesn’t have to be as a physician assistant. It can be as a CNA, EMT, and so on. Although this program is quite rigorous, it’s known for producing high-quality graduates who get top-tier physician assistant positions throughout the country.

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University of Detroit Mercy – Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies

  • Online/Hybrid: Hybrid
  • Accreditations: AACSB, ABA, ABET, APA, ARC-PA, CACREP, CCNE, CODA, CSWE, HLC, NAAB, NASP, TEAC
  • Tuition: $1607 per credit hour

Detroit Mercy offers this flexible master’s program. It includes options for evening, online, and Saturday classes to work with the busy schedules of working PAs. Alternatively, you can go full throttle and pursue an accelerated schedule to complete the program more quickly than average. That’s because you can apply for an advanced standing position if you already have completed some applicable coursework from other schools or programs.

Applicants must have a minimum of 30 credits and a bachelor’s degree in an accredited PA program. GPA requirements are a reasonable 2.5 compared to the 3.0 requirements found in other programs. Note that, however, you must have a PA license in Michigan to qualify for the program.

View More about University of Detroit Mercy

University of Nebraska Medical Center – Master of Physician Assistant Studies/Advancement Option

  • Online/Hybrid: Online
  • Accreditations: ACEND, ARC-PA, CAAHEP, CAPTE, CCNE, CEPH, CODA, HLC, JRCERT, JRNMT, LCME, NAACLS
  • Tuition: $313 to $897 per credit hour

The University of Nebraska offers another stellar MPAS online program for working physician assistants. This degree advancement option lets students finish the program in just five semesters without traveling away from home.

However, it’s only open to licensed PAs who have bachelor’s degrees and GPAs of at least 2.0 or higher. There are two tracks – the clinical track requires a preceptor and the education track requires a mentor. However, you don’t need to choose one or the other before you apply for the program. If needed, you can complete this master’s degree program in five years if you can only complete its course work on a part-time basis.

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University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley – Master of Physician Assistant Studies/Bridge Program

  • Online/Hybrid: Online
  • Accreditations: AACSB, ARC-PA, CCNE, CSWE, LCME, NCATE, SACSCOC
  • Tuition: $417 to $832 per credit hour

UT’s MPAS program is a bridge program. In this way, it’s intended for working physician assistants who need to complete their degree online with a minimum of disruption in their daily lives. It offers evidence-based medicine training and is fantastic for students who may be intimidated by distance learning – the program is very accessible and uses intuitive computer technology.

All applicants must have a bachelor’s degree and a 3.0 GPA at minimum. You’ll also likely need licensure, certification, a supervising physician, and proof of current employment to qualify. All students must also have malpractice insurance.

View More about The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

AT Still University of Health Sciences – Master of Science in Advanced Physician Assistant Studies

  • Online/Hybrid: Online
  • Accreditations: ADA, AOTA, ARC-PA, CAPTE, CEPH, COCA, CODA, HLC
  • Tuition: $420 per credit hour

AT Still University’s post-professional online program is designed to lead to an MS in Advanced Physician Assistant Studies. It’s open to any students who are already certified or licensed physician assistants, though it does accept international students from time to time.

All coursework is 100% online, and each student can complete the 400 required hours of clinical practice at their place of employment. There are two concentrations: clinical medicine and education/leadership. Students should expect to devote between 10 and 15 hours each week to their studies to complete the program with good grades.

While the program doesn’t need a bachelor’s degree for admission, it may help. But if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, you can go straight to an MS degree with a minimum of hassle. Note that this pathway does include additional course requirements, so it may take longer than if you already had a bachelor’s degree in PAS.

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Stony Brook University – Post-Professional Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies

  • Online/Hybrid: Online
  • Accreditations: ABET, ACEND, ACOTE, ADA, AOTA, ARC-PA, CAAHEP, CAPTE, CCNE, CEPH, CoARC, CSWE, JRCERT, LCME, MSCHE, NAACLS, NCATE
  • Tuition: $613 to $1225 per credit hour

Stony Brook’s post-professional program is a rapid pace program. A motivated student can finish the program between 15 and 18 months online. If you prefer a hybrid education, you can attend some of your classes on campus at Stony Brook’s Long Island or Manhattan campuses.

There are three start dates per year. All applicants must have already graduated from an ARC-PA accredited program and have a current physician assistant license. A bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 GPA is preferred. However, you can transfer up to six credits from previous graduate courses to accelerate your progress in the program.

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Nova Southeastern University – Master of Medical Sciences/Physician Assistant

  • Online/Hybrid: Online
  • Accreditations: ABA, ACAE, ACOE, ACPE, ACOTE, APA, ARC-PA, CAAHEP, CAATE, CAPTE, CEPH, CODA, LCME, NASP, NASPAA, NCATE, SACSCOC
  • Tuition: $966 per credit hour

Nova Southeastern University offers a high-quality distance-learning option for certified and licensed physician assistants who want to get their master’s degrees. Should you choose an on-campus option, you’ll be able to get a dual MMS/MPH degree, which is highly competitive in the modern medical marketplace.

The online program offers a healthcare focus. Although not geared toward physician assistants, the program is still valuable, especially if you want to proceed into different professional positions throughout your career. The program is open to certified and licensed healthcare professionals or administrators who have a relevant bachelor’s degree.

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Marywood University – Master in Physician Assistant Professional Studies

  • Online/Hybrid: Online
  • Accreditations: ACBSP, ACEN, ACEND, APA, ARC-PA, CAATE, CACREP, CAEP, CCNE, CSWE, MSCHE, NAAB, NASAD, NASM
  • Tuition: $1000 per credit hour

Marywood University’s MPAPS degree program is online and allows currently practicing physician assistants to teach at the college level and take on administrative roles or conduct research. All applicants have to have already completed an accredited PA program and have a bachelor’s degree. A current PA license, proof of employment, and a supervising physician are also required. Unfortunately, this program does not allow any transfer credits.

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Pace University-New York – Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies

  • Online/Hybrid: Online
  • Accreditations: AACSB, ABA, ABET, ACS, APA, ARC-PA, CCNE, MSCHE, NCATE
  • Tuition: $1225 per credit hour

Pace also offers an online master’s degree in PAS. A motivated student can complete the program in 12 months, even when studying part-time. It admits all NCCPA certified physician assistants. The program includes 18 credits of clinical experience and 12 credits of didactic education for 30 credits total.

The program begins in January, and all applicants must have taken an ARC-PA accredited program and have documentation of 3600 hours or more of professional experience.

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Yale University – Master of Medical Science

  • Online/Hybrid: Online
  • Accreditations: AACSB, ABA, ABET, ACEN, APA, ARC-PA, ATS, CAHME, CCNE, CEPH, LCME, NASM, NEASC
  • Tuition: $1313 per credit hour

Yale’s School of Medicine offers a great online PA program that lasts for 28 months from start to finish. The first 12 months cover didactic education and the remaining months focus on clinical rotations either at or near students’ home communities.

The clinical rotations usually last about 40 hours per week, but Yale is quite good at helping students light up their training sites and preceptors. Additionally, students will attend three separate 5-day on-campus immersion experiences in New Haven, Connecticut, throughout the program’s duration.

All applicants must have GRE scores, and applicants need to have an undergraduate science GPA of 3.0 or better. It is also recommended to have six months of full-time healthcare experience and 1000 hours of hands-on patient care due to the program’s competitiveness.

Summary

There are many excellent, affordable, and flexible options if you want to jump into a hybrid or online ARC-PA accredited physician assistant program. Whether you’re looking to acquire your master’s degree to bolster your initial employment opportunities or trying to progress in your career, you have multiple pathways to success.

Consider the programs above and remember only to choose a program that is ARC-PA accredited. Give yourself a competitive edge for any future physician assistant position by graduating from an accredited ARC-PA program.

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